Kenya, I can’t wait to be back

If the conference I attended this past weekend is anything to go by, Kenya is an African powerhouse. The President of Ghana referenced Kenya as the potential Silicon Valley of Africa and many others paid tribute to the groundbreaking innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity taking place in Kenya.

And why wouldn’t they? With people like Sam Gichuru at Nailab, Peggy Mativo of PACE and Boniface Mwangi at PAWA254, Kenya has a lot to be proud of.

Coming from abroad, it’s easy to feel like an overseas education will give you the best answers to overcoming key issues in the country and continent. You go back home with the diaspora saviour complex, but the reality is that people in Kenya and the wider African continent are already creating solutions to these problems.

We have global exposure and experience but should never assume that this is necessarily better than local insight and experience.

Leaving Kenya has been the greatest gift. It’s enabled me to broaden my mindset and envision my role in African growth and development. For some, this involves being abroad. For me, it is undoubtedly living and working on the continent. I want to tour Africa. I want to learn more about our East African neighbours, discover West Africa and traverse Southern Africa.

At the conference, I attended panel discussions on education systems, civil society, social entrepreneurship, migration and energy. There is so much great work happening, I almost feel like I am missing out by being abroad.

I can’t wait to be back- permanently.

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

 

Is the idea really yours?

Remember when you were in Year 6, and someone tried to copy the picture you were drawing? If you were cheeky like me, you’d be doing your best to slyly cover your paper so that your classmate couldn’t keep glancing over at your work.

Much like that scenario, as an adult, I’ve found myself being very protective over my ideas. I want what is mine to remain mine. However, this possessiveness is highly problematic.

Firstly, I challenge the notion that there is such a thing as your idea. There’s really nothing new in this world. Ideas- they’ve all been done somewhere. There’s a verse in the bible that says “What has been done will be again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The difference is in the method- people find new ways of doing old things. Events, places and even people inspire ideas.

Secondly, competition is great. Anyone trying to do similar work to yours will always challenge you to find what is unique about what you do. We’re all unique in the way we do things and so naturally, execution of ideas will often be different.

Finally, touching on purpose which I spoke about in my last post, what’s yours will always be yours. No one can take that away from you. I strongly believe that if something or someone is supposed to be part of your destiny, it will be. That doesn’t mean we become sitting ducks. Purpose requires us to step into a realm that allows it to operate. If you want to be an author someday, are you writing somewhere now to practice? If you aspire to be a stellar athlete, do you practice your sport consistently?

I’m not sure my Intellectual Law professor would be particularly proud of this post. That being said, the law is there for when you think you and your ideas need protection. Please use it if necessary.

 

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© Tessy Maritim

One Small Decision

I’ve got some good news today! Three weeks ago I submitted an idea into a competition our university runs called ‘Venture Further‘. It gives students and recent graduates an opportunity to submit an idea and win £10,000 to implement the idea. I didn’t have plans to submit an idea until three days before the end of the competition, when someone nudged me to submit an idea I had been researching about into the competition. After 30 mins of uhmming and ahhhing, I realised there was really nothing to lose by entering the competition.

So with a couple of days before the end of competition, I hurriedly put together the entry and submitted it- 10 minutes before the deadline.

A week and a half later, I received an email with the news that the idea had been selected as a finalist in the competition! I was in shock. It took me about 20 mins of staring at the email to finally understand what was happening, without fear that it was a hoax or a case of mistaken identity.

Small decisions can shed light on a bigger story, as they have for me.

Connecting the dots The funny thing is that two years ago I entered this very competition with a different idea. It was rejected in the first instance and the idea died at that point. Timing is a great thing because this many years later, I submitted an idea that I know I will work on, even if we don’t win the competition. Things needed to be in place for me to have a strong entry that will go beyond the competition. Everything in its own time; everything in God’s time.

Try. Always try I know I repeat this message but its because I can’t emphasise enough how its changed my life. Last week a good friend of mine asked me what gives me the courage to try and my answer was simple- every time you accept a challenge, you are making a decision to take your life forward. Staying comfortable doesn’t do anyone any good. Keep your ears to the ground and when a challenge presents itself and requires you to try, say yes!

No-one is ever 100% ready Following on from the decision to try, I think it’s so important to remember that no-one is ever 100% ready. You may be waiting for the perfect moment to apply for a job, start a project or make a move on someone you care about, but if you wait until you are ready, you will wait forever. I thought my entry from the competition was far from perfect, but I sent it anyway. You don’t have to be all the way ready; there’s room to figure things out on the way.

All you need is love As I’ve shared my idea with a few friends, some have disappointed me with their responses. I’m reminded that I need to surround myself with love. I don’t have time for naysayers on the sidelines as I play my game. I need cheerleaders- friends who send love, thoughts, prayers and encouragement when I need it most. If you find that the people sitting front row at your game are not doing the aforementioned, don’t be afraid to take away their courtside tickets- they don’t deserve them.

Tomorrow, we find out who the winner of the Venture Further competition is. I’m excited and anxious, all at the same time! I’d appreciate your prayers and positive thoughts.

p.s. If you’re interested, more details on the competition can be found here. The idea I submitted is called ‘My Nairobi’. 

UPDATE- Our idea won second place in the competition! We’ve been awarded £2500 to implement the idea. More details here. Here’s a pic from the awards night!

Awards dinner pic

T

© Tessy Maritim

No patriarchy, no feminism

Last week, I shared a video on my timeline that opened up a very interesting conversation about feminism from an African perspective. As expected, there were many who agreed and many who disagreed- the most amusing criticism being that the equality of women be advocated for ‘to a certain limit’. Sigh.

I’m writing this post to highlight a few other points I didn’t manage to address in my video.

I’ve heard many make a claim that feminism unfairly advantages women over men. If you think about feminism in a vacuum, you would probably think that. But feminism is a response to a societal problem- it exists to counter the patriarchy. As I said in my video, there’s no better place to see the patriarchy play out than in African society(s). Stripping women on the streets- men having the prerogative to decide what is deemed decent or indecent for a woman and then proceeding to punish her publicly if they feel she violates this- is a symptom of the patriarchy. The legal system- that means that men can be sentenced to cutting grass for raping a woman– is a symptom of patriarchy. Cultural norms- such as FGM (female genital mutilation) and forced early marriage- are a symptom of the patriarchy. For years, women have been set back by structural oppression. So it’s a vacuous criticism to say that feminism is ‘unfair’.

This illustration says it all.

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The image on the left conveys many people’s idea of equality- giving all the same ‘leg-up’. But that changes nothing. You can’t continue to empower those who are already structurally privileged. This is why feminism is important- it provides a platform for women’s achievements, rights and struggles to be affirmed. For as long as the patriarchy exists, there must be a movement fighting against it- and it must be led by women.

The word ‘feminist’ isn’t saying that women are better than men. It’s an explicit and powerful acknowledgement of their oppression in society- it’s a political statement.

I’m a strong believer that there’s a place for men in feminism. To me, this means standing up and speaking against manifestations of patriarchy which could include catcalling, groping, rape, victim blaming, and most importantly, letting women lead their own liberation.

It’s difficult to be a feminist. There’s a lot of resistance. But its important that you make a political stance when taking on a monster like patriarchy. We can’t afford to be nonchalant- women’s lives are at stake.

For anyone who hasn’t already watched this (I doubt there’ll be many of you), please check out Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx talk on feminism. She speaks about feminism from an African perspective with some hilarious and very relatable anecdotes.

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

(UPDATE- As I edited this post yesterday, I read the best news I’ve seen in a while- three men have been convicted and found guilty of gang-rape and causing grievious bodily harm to ‘Liz’ and as a result sentenced to 15 and 7 years in jail respectively. They had previously been ordered to cut grass as punishment. Read more about that here. Also check out the petition and protests that pressured courts to catch the perpetrators- feminism and activism at its’ best!)

 

#faves – African changemakers

It was only when I came to study in the UK that I began to identify as ‘African‘. Before that, I was just Kenyan. I never saw myself in the context of the wider world and I guess that’s one of the benefits of studying abroad- you discover a lot of new things but also begin to see old things from new perspective(s).

I’ve watched myself become fiercely protective of African identity (if there is one at all). I recognise the difference between when an African speaks about Africa and when a non-African speaks about Africa. The former is usually from a place of understanding the many similarities between African nations while the latter is more often that not, bound with ignorance. I’m reminded of a time when someone asked me “Are you planning on going back to Africa?” Excuse me, but what do you mean?

Things are changing and there are people who are at the forefront of this process- undefining stereotypes and challenging global perceptions about Africa in small and big ways. For today’s #faves post, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite African changemakers. Here we go!

Africans are activists – Boniface Mwangi

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(picture courtesy of bonifacemwangi.com)

Boniface Mwangi is a Kenyan activist and a photographer by profession. For me, he defines what it means to be a patriot. This past year working in student politics has taught me the importance of grassroots activism and community organising. When politicians misuse and manipulate systems to benefit themselves, the most powerful course of action is to take the streets and make our voices too loud to ignore. Boniface has pioneered and set the pace for other young Kenyans to take a stance and not let powerful politicians get away with setting our country back. His courage is inspiring!

Africans are creators– Sharon Mundia

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(picture courtesy of thisisess.com)

Internet and connectivity is opening up opportunities for many to have a space of their own which they can use to express their creativity. Sharon Mundia’s ‘This is Ess’ is my favourite example of this. She’s created a brand from a simple idea, consistency and quality delivery. It’s a worldwide phenomenon but in Kenya and other African countries, there’s still a slow response to the huge platform that bloggers provide for brands. People like Sharon are changing this- one blog post at a time.

Africans are educators– Patrick Awuah

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(picture courtesy of myafricanow.com)

Patrick Awuah left a career at Microsoft to set up Ashesi University– an independent, co-educational, public benefit education institution operating on a not-for-profit basis. I think it’s wonderful that there are some visionary leaders setting up educational institutions with a focus on how people can use their skills and knowledge to transform the continent. It’s so important that these universities exist to challenge the perception that one must get a Western education to succeed in life.

Africans are entrepreneurs– Tara Fela-Durotoye

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(picture courtesy of globalblackhistory.com)

If you’re African you know the stigma that was once attached to careers that are not medicine, engineering or law. But things have changed and we have people like Tara Fela-Durotoye to thank for that! Tara is the Founder of House of Tara, a cosmetics company with a focus on make-up. It’s tough enough to be an entrepreneur, let alone in the untapped beauty industry. House of Tara is a reminder that Africans can succeed and pioneer, even in fields that are perceived ‘non-African’.

As a continent, we are nowhere near reaching our capacity. We are an awakening giant. Slowly but surely transforming our communities, our brands, our economies and our world.

I love you Africa!

Share some of your #fave African changemakers below!

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

Yes Days Off

It’s no secret that our generation is hungrier than it’s ever been. Everyone is on their #workflow and taking #nodaysoff. We’ve glamourized and glorified overworking at the dangerous expense of self-care.

For many of us, myself included, overworking begins in university. With strict deadlines, late nights and copious amounts of coffee, overworking is an unspoken language. But I often wonder whether there’s another way to do it.

It’s easy to feel selfish or lazy for taking time off and taking care of yourself. But I’ve realized the importance of keeping your cup full. You can’t give anything you don’t already have. You are far more productive when you regularly reboot.

Your physical and mental health is never worth the sacrifice. If you’re overwhelmed and need a break, take one. Find what rejuvenates you and fills your spirit. It’s okay to take care of you!

We live in a society where we are made to feel guilty for resting. But what many don’t realize is that the habits you cultivate in your 20’s stick with you for the rest of your life. I believe work ethic is the discipline to put in work and equally, the discipline to put in rest.

I am blessed to work in an environment where we are encouraged to take time off and rejuvenate. I love to unwind by writing, reading, cooking with loud music on and most importantly, sleeping. I’m going to learn how to bake this year!

What if we were taught to take care of our wellbeing as earnestly as we are taught to work hard? There’s nothing noble or admirable about overworking yourself.

Wishing you a productive and equally restful week!

 

p.s. Please spare an hour to watch this amazing talk by Oprah. You’ll need a notebook for this one!

 

 

© Tessy Maritim

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Vision 2015

Happy 2015! I trust you are all well and hope you had a lovely Christmas break. I must say, I’m still on holiday! For the past couple of years, my December has been marked by endless, stifling revision. This one has been different. As I am now part of the workforce, I’ve had the opportunity to take some time off and just relax. I’ve visited family and friends, ran errands for my parents and unapologetically overslept. It’s been delightful.

Now that 2015 is in full focus, many of us are planning for the upcoming months and setting goals. It’s great to feel a sense of direction for the year. But it can also be daunting if you’re not quite sure what you want to do or where you want to be. I think being uncertain about your purpose is healthy and normal. Uncertainty gives you the opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate what’s truly important to you.

Some years ago while I was wandering about on the Internet, I came across an eye-opening set of questions and thoughts that helped me brainstorm and reflect on what my purpose is. They may not give you the answers you’re looking for but they are definitely a good place to start.

p.s. I have no recollection of which blog I borrowed this from! So I must clarify that the following content is NOT my work.


 

 Lets start with the basics:

For these exercises, grab a sheet of paper, make yourself a cup of tea and go to a quiet, comfortable space.

PURPOSE 

To help find your purpose, answer these questions:

  1. What are you most passionate about?
  2. What activities do you find the most joy in?
  3. What is the one thing you feel you couldn’t live without doing?
  4. Who are your inspirations, and why?
  5. What skills are people constantly complimenting you on?
  6. What goals in your life are the most meaningful?
  7. What do you want to be remembered for?
  8. What comes exceptionally easy for you?

Once you have answered these questions, try to find the ‘common denominators’. Do you see any patterns/similarities? Is there a recurring theme? These patterns/similarities are an indicator of your purpose in life. If you are still having issues; try to focus your quest on uncovering your rawnatural abilities, things that come innate to you.
GOALS

Set your goals using the S.M.A.R.T method:

S
: Stands for specific; you must be as specific as possible when writing down your list of goals. Focus on why you want to do it, how you want to do it, and when you want to do it.

M: Stands for measurable; you need to find a way to keep track of your goals so that you are able to make any necessary changes to your plans along the way. There needs to be “mini-goals” built in your main goal so that you are able to note milestones and progress.

A: Stands for attainable; make sure the goal set is truly important to you; whenever a goal is important to you, you remain motivated, and you are able to think of workarounds to bypass potential problems.

R: Stands for realistic; make sure your goals are within reach. However don’t confuse setting realistic goals with lowering your expectations. Setting realistic goals helps fuel the momentum and keep the excitement going as you move through your list. Make sure you have all the tools/skills/resources available to achieve your goals, as you are more likely to work hard to achieve them.

T: Stands for time based; make sure to set specific dates for completion of your goals, if specific time frames aren’t set, you may feel like you can start at any time.

 

BE-DO-HAVE

Once you have figured out your purpose, and written down your goals; it’s time to practice the BE – DO – HAVE Paradigm. Are you are a Human Doing or a Human Being?

Simply put, you need to BE in harmony first. That is your state of being. Acting in love manifests an abundance of blessings.

Once you’ve mastered the art of “being” you need to actually DO some work prior to HAVING the true fulfillment you desire!


 

You can take it further than this and create a vision board which will help you envision your goals and purpose. I shared how vision boards have helped me in this previous post.

This exercise helped me clarify some of my plans and I hope you find it equally helpful.

 

 

T

 

© Tessy Maritim

14 Reflections

Can’t believe how quick this year has flown by! It feels monotonous to always say the same thing at the end of every year but where does the time go?

I’ve had a great 2014. Although I can’t quite capture some of the high highs and low lows, here are some of my special 2014 moments.

 

Saw the Queen

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In February, my girl Nyambura and I went to see Beyoncé live. I’m not the biggest Beyoncé fan but she is a phenomenal performer. Being there was an experience like no other and the energy was infectious.

 

Lupita Season 

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Lupita’s success this year reminded me that the success I envision is not elusive. She reminded me that it’s possible. Adore her!

 

She wins, We win 

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I had no plans of running in an election but God did. The weird thing is that I had random thoughts in my second year of how amazing it would be to be part of the Students’ Union Executive. Somehow, what’s meant to be will always happen! My election taught me that there is nothing to ever lose by trying. Making an effort will always take you a step ahead. It’ll give you courage and fearlessness. You owe it to yourself to always try.

 

Page 3, darling 

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Soon after my election, I got several requests for features in Kenyan newspapers. To God be the glory! Yaasss.

 

Law School Graduate

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Earlier in the year I wanted to repeat my third year of university. I had received my January exam results and they were not great. So I figured that I would rather repeat than graduate with mediocre grades. But I wasn’t allowed to because I didn’t have mitigating circumstances that would justify me re-doing my final year. I was told that the chances of me pulling up my overall grade with the remaining set of exams were slim but my only chance nonetheless. So as you can guess my final semester of third year was tough. At the end of it all, I was content knowing that I did the best that I could. So whatever I achieved I would be at peace with. In the end, I graduated with a 2.1 Honors degree! My family was there to celebrate with me and I could not have asked for a more magical day.

 

Team Spirit 

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One of my favourite quotes is “If you want to fly with eagles, you have to stop hanging out with chicken”. So imagine how lucky and blessed I am to work with a team of 7 highly intelligent, brilliant, activist eagles. My mind has been stretched because they have each in their own way taught me something new about the world. Luvz my team!

 

My Money Story

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This event took 7.5 months of planning. I was in Manchester for 7 of those months. The execution of this event can only be attributed to my team and the guidance of God. I’m so thankful for a supportive and dedicated team who went all out to ensure everything was organized. Teamwork makes the dream work, for sure.

 

Oh hey AM Live

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Courtesy of The Arena, I did my first TV interview ever on AM Live! It was a wonderful experience and Kobi was so warm and welcoming to us.

 

Radio came calling too

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I did some radio as well in the run up to #MyMoneyStory and it was sweet! Made some good networks and met the loveliest people.

 

Family 

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My family make everything I do worthwhile. Celebrating success with family and friends is the sweetest!

 

Aspire Scholars

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I won a scholarship to attend the Aspire Women’s 2-day ‘Connected Leadership’ conference in December in London. ‘Networking’ is a word I have used a lot but this event taught me true networking!

 

Tiwa Sa-vage

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I would pay double what I paid to see this woman perform again- she is amazing live! She carried the show all the way and hit it out of the park.

 

fLAWless

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Relived my high school prom at our Law School Ball. Definitely had a princess moment!

 

As we step into 2015 in a couple of days, I wish you a groundbreaking new year. May success, whatever that means to you, be yours. Be great.

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

#faves: Bible Verses

I got my first and only bible when I was about 14. It was a gift from my auntie. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it- was I supposed to read it like a story? I couldn’t quite figure it out but wanted to make an effort to read because I wanted to strengthen my knowledge and understanding of God.

To this day, I haven’t read the bible cover-to-cover. Many of the verses I know and love come from church service. I’m also really fond of the ‘Bible App’ (available on both iOS and Android) which I downloaded about a year ago. It notifies you of a daily verse, allows you to highlight your favourite verses and enables you to connect with your friends on it and see what they highlight. It’s a really cool way to grow your knowledge of the bible.

So courtesy of the bible app, here are 10 of my favourite verses.

 

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I love this verse because it’s a reminder that He’s got a plan for each and every one of us- and it is a perfect plan. No mistakes.

 

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A couple of Sundays ago, I sent this verse to my youngest sister Tania and she asked me what it means to be made fearfully. I actually never thought about it. It made me reflect and do some research- in the bible ‘fearfully‘ is used in the context of respect and reverence i.e. “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“. My understanding is that this means we are created in the highest regard by our Maker.

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When you are worried and fearful, this is the verse to remember. How comforting to know God walks with us even in the darkest moments.

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Guidelines for love. I don’t think there’s much I can add to this that isn’t already said in the verse- perfection.

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Discipline is never easy and but always worthwhile. This verse captures that accurately.

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The strength of the Lord is in me. Powerful.

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I love this verse because it is a reminder that even after preparing to face a challenge, it’s important to commit that challenge to God because ultimate victory rests with Him.

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A wonderful reminder that no past mistakes or failure can cripple us.

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Every situation we face in life leads us to fulfilling our potential.

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Put your hope and faith in Him- he will not let you down!

Would love to hear some of your favourite bible verses! Share below in the comment box.

T

© Tessy Maritim

Undressing Women, Undressing Society

Last week Uhuru Kenyatta finally responded to the outrageous undressing of women. And for once, I agree with him. He grasped and articulated well what most people have seemingly missed in this fiasco.

To me, it seems as we undressed women, we were also subconsciously undressing ourselves. We revealed what makes up the fabric of society- rape culture is rampant, misogyny is manifested everywhere.

I think I get why Uhuru Kenyatta’s words in this video make us extremely uncomfortable. It’s because we don’t want to be called out. I’m obvs not misogynistic; I don’t undress women on the streets. Yet, without flinching, you grope a woman in the club when she walks past you. Without flinching, you add alcohol to her drink to make it harder for her to say no to your sexual advances. Not as bad as those whose misogyny is publicly seen, right? It’s the classic case of the glasshouse.

Uhuru unapologetically and rightly calls us out for turning a blind eye to what happens in our own backyards and then turning around to yell at others for what they do in public. If you truly think undressing women in public is barbaric- you must identify the issue for what it truly is- rape culture and misogyny.

Rape culture manifests in our society deeply and widely. It’s the idea that male sexual violence has penetrated our society to the extent that it is normal. When a man makes comments about a woman’s body on the streets; when rape is blamed on how short your skirt is; when a man sexually assaults his niece- it’s because of rape culture.

I’d like us to deal with this issue for what it truly is. It has little, if anything, to do with safety and security, and more to do with how we view women. And that’s not something Uhuru Kenyatta can fix. We could have police presence on every street in Kenya and there will still be men beating their partners at home.

If you think you truly care about and respect women because you’ve condemned their public undressing, look at your own life and those around you critically. Because if you would still have sex with a girl when she’s drunk without consent, you might as well strip her in public.

 

T

© Tessy Maritim